Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre in The Gap: Turtles Need a Long-term Commitment for Care

The Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre in The Gap is home to a unique resident, a freshwater turtle of extraordinary proportions, dubbed by wildlife officers as the largest turtle they have ever encountered. 

However, amidst this notable resident at the Centre lies a deeper issue that concerns not only The Gap but Queensland at large—a growing trend of well-meaning individuals acquiring pet turtles without fully comprehending the commitment these reptiles entail and then giving them up when they realise they can no longer care for them as pets.

A Popular Yet Misunderstood Choice

Freshwater turtles have long been a beloved choice among Queenslanders when it comes to keeping pets. Their captivating appearance, especially as hatchlings, often leads people to believe they can thrive in the confines of a fish tank. However, this assumption proves misguided, as these creatures require meticulous care and attention throughout their long lives.

Warren Christensen, the Manager of Southern Wildlife Operations, emphasised that owning a turtle is not a fleeting commitment, akin to a seasonal Christmas ornament. 

He explained that freshwater turtles can live for an impressive 40 to 50 years. Thus, they require not only a spacious habitat with water for swimming but also access to land for exercise, and when kept indoors, a large fish tank coupled with ultraviolet light.

Health Matters

Aside from the space and environmental requirements, the health of pet turtles is paramount. Mr. Christensen warned that neglecting their need for clean water can result in various health issues, including soft, cracked, or peeling shells. 

Regrettably, many turtles surrendered to authorities, like those from The Gap, often exhibit signs of neglect and poor health due to improper care. Mr Christensen further explained the grim reality that many surrendered turtles cannot be rehomed, given the stringent requirements for their care. 

One recent incident involved a 20-year-old turtle, relinquished by an owner who could no longer care for it. Astonishingly, this turtle had been living indoors with the freedom to roam and an unregulated diet, conditions far from ideal for its well-being. Fortunately, the turtle is now thriving at the Walkabout Creek Discovery in The Gap.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Addressing the Issue of Permits

One glaring issue that compounds the problem is the lack of necessary permits for turtle ownership. Many individuals who surrender these creatures have procured them without the proper documentation. 

This, Mr Christensen stressed, contributes to the illegal trade of native wildlife—a grave concern in Queensland and Australia as a whole.

The illegal trade of native animals poses a significant threat to Australia’s unique wildlife, as it often involves the unlawful removal of creatures from their natural habitats. Both sellers and buyers who partake in this trade risk facing fines or even court prosecution. 

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is unwavering in its commitment to combating this issue, reiterating its zero-tolerance stance towards the illegal wildlife trade.

An Appeal for Responsible Pet Ownership

As the holiday season approaches, and people consider welcoming a pet into their homes, Mr Christensen issues a heartfelt plea. He encourages potential pet owners to thoroughly educate themselves on the specific care requirements of native animals, including turtles. 

Furthermore, he emphasizes the importance of obtaining the necessary permits to ensure that these animals are acquired legally and ethically.

Published 18-Dec-2023